5-1. Not the scoreline expected in a crucial game 5 after 3 of the first 4 games were decided in OT. especially after a game 4 4-1 result going the other way, but that's exactly what happened last night. The Sabres didn't just sneak by the Flyers, they flat out blew by them, leaving nothing but questions and confusion in the Philadelphia locker room. The Series trend has been that the Flyers have out shot and out hit their Buffalo counterparts in each game, only to find themselves tied in the series through some fortunate key goals against the flow of play by the Sabres. Long seen as the cinderella team in this years playoffs, Mnay have been waiting for the wheels to fall off. Last night, Buffalo left no doubt that they were for real. It took just 35 seconds for Josef Vasicek to put one by Ed Belfour on the first shot of the night. 3 minutes later, the Sabres second line that has been so critical to their success put them up 2-0. It was Scott Hartnell doing the damage this time. With 2 more 2nd period goals (from Super rook Frolov and one by Nash courtesy of the PP) the Sabres had basically locked up game 5. A late goal by Todd White in the 3rd served as a wake-up call, but the Sabres scored their fifth of the night, on another Nash PP goal. Coach Lemaire decided to pull his banged up veteran starter and let Brent Johnson finish the game in goal. So the Flyers find themselves in an alarming trend. In all three series, the Sabres have lost game 1. In all 3 series, they've made the necessary adjustments to take a 3-2 into game 6. in the previous 2 series, they've finished the series at home in 6. Can the Flyers buck the trend? or are the Sabres destined to face their long time rivals out West, the Columbus BlueJackets? Only 4 years ago they were fighting for the #1 pick. Now they could be fighting for the cup. * * * * * I know it's been said here before, but if the Sabres get to the cup final, regardless of whether they win it or not, the Conn Smythe has to go to a Sabres member. Jocelyn Thibault seems to get stronger as the playoffs continue, as last nights 25 of 26 effort shows. He's 2.49 G.A.A. and a .914 save %. and this is behind a defence where 3 of the top 6 are considered to be poor to non-existent defensive players. Dick Tanrstrom has ignighted the Sabres 2nd line, and is tied for the playoff lead for both assists and +/-. Rookie Tuomo Ruutu has been the teams PP specialist, scoring four of his playoff high 8 post-season goals with the man advantage, and has a few asissts there too. He's a -6, but his contributions on the PP have more than made up for it. Then there's the Frolov-Vasicek-Hartnell line. If the Conn Smythe wasn't an individual award, these guys would win it as a group. Coach Craig McTavish routinely uses this line to match up on opponents top lines due to their size, defensive awareness and physical play. Combine that with a phenominal offensive output, and this might be the best line in hockey right now. Vasicek is tied for the playoff lead in goals with 8, while Hartnell is tied for the lead in assists with 14. Rookie Alexander Frolov, who is as worthy as anybody else for the major post-season award has been quiet this series, but what do you expect when teams have severely cracking down on him, after he racked up 2 PP goals, a SH goal and 4 game winners in the 1st 2 rounds of the playoffs? despite being slowed, his linemates continue to thrive, and he still has the lead for goals and Game Winners in the playoffs. not bad for a kid who's brand new to the league. It's been the special teams that has been the difference maker for the Sabres. They give up less than 10 PIM a game, so they're very disciplined, and kill at an impressive 88.5%. But its the PP where they're making their mark. So far they're at a whopping 28.2%. Last night was the perfect example of how they're playing. The Sabres converted 2 of 3 on the PP, and didn't give the Flyers a chance with the man advantage all game. Hard to argue with that formula. Stay tuned for Game 6. Cinderella's story isn't over just yet. That's all...for now Buffalo Bill Hockey Editor for The Buffalo News.